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Indigenous business leaders claim racial profiling at West End Moxie's

Last Updated Mar 1, 2019 at 8:05 am PDT

James Cowpar, Darren Hogg, Sharon Bond, Inez Cook, Kaylene Earl pictured at dinner before heading to a nearby Moxie's. (Pictured from left to right)

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – A night of catching up with colleagues turned sour when a group was refused service at the Moxie’s Bar and Grill on Davie Street in what three Indigenous business leaders are calling an incident of racial profiling.

Inez Cook, Sharon Bond and James Cowpar are board members with Indigenous Tourism BC. Cook owns Salmon and Bannock, the only Indigenous restaurant in Vancouver. Bond and Cowpar are also business owners, in town for the BC Tourism Industry Conference.

All three tell NEWS 1130 they were out for Greek food on Davie Street before deciding on a nightcap to wrap up the evening together before heading back to their hotels in taxis.

They grabbed a table at Moxie’s, ordered a round and got back to chatting when Bond knocked over her drink.

“She took like literally two sips and then she was talking with her hands and knocked it down onto the floor,” explains Cook.

“We were not drunk at all, like not at all.”

While the drink was being cleaned up, they tried to order a new one before the manager came over and told them they would no longer be served.

Cowpar tried to educate the young man about harmful stereotypes and explained that it was inappropriate to refuse service to a table of six as if they had all caused an issue.

“I’d get it if we somehow came across loud or obnoxious but that wasn’t the case,” says Cowpar, adding he was made to feel like a criminal for ordering a drink.

Cowpar says he repeatedly asked the manager to explain what his concerns were, asked if one person in the group was the issue and tried to show the manager better ways of handling these kinds of situations.

“He just stood there the entire time with his arms crossed, with a smirk on his face,” says Cook. “I said, ‘Have you ever felt ostracized for anything in your life? We have our entire lives and here you are on the unceded territories ostracizing us again.”

They claim the manager told them they were a risk to the safety of staff, they were too drunk and they wouldn’t be served.

“He was unclear as to who was threatening him and what was, so he was just throwing out all these cues and not making much sense,” says Cowpar, adding the staff sat at the bar watching and laughing at the situation.

“We felt like criminals ordering drinks.”

Staff cheered, clapped when group left

The restaurant waived the group’s bill, but it did little to ease their discomfort with the situation especially given the way staff reacted when the group left the building.

“They all clapped,” Cook recalls.

Cowpar and Bond confirm the staff clapped and cheered for the manager once the group gave up on trying to convince him of their sobriety, finally leaving the restaurant.

“We felt offended … and the smirks got bigger. But the kicker was when they all started clapping … it was like oh my god, this is a parody of racism at its finest,” says Cowpar.

Despite how shook he was on Tuesday, Cowpar says he isn’t angry and he doesn’t want a tit-for-tat or to punish Moxie’s in any way. Instead, he says, it’s important restaurants are educated about diversity and inclusion, especially in Vancouver where so many tourists come through.

“As professionals, we’re saying this behaviour is unacceptable, how can they address it and more importantly bring awareness around how to treat one another?” Cowpar says.

Moxie’s responds

Moxie’s Canada replied to our request with the following statement, characterizing the actions of their employee as acting on his “legal responsibility” after observing signs of intoxication:

“At Moxie’s we take our responsibility seriously to ensure the safety of our guests. We are an active participant in the Davie Street community and pride ourselves on our inclusivity. According to Serving it Right, B.C.’s responsible beverage service program, by law, “no one in B.C. is allowed to sell or serve alcohol to a person who is intoxicated or “apparently intoxicated.” The term “apparently intoxicated” places a great deal of responsibility on the individual to judge when a person is approaching intoxication or is already intoxicated”. On Tuesday night a manager at our Davie Street location observed signs of intoxication among members of a party of guests and acted on his legal responsibility to monitor and limit consumption.

Sincerely, Jim Weidinger
Vice President – Operations”